I spent last weekend in one of the most inspiring and dynamic environments I’ve ever seen. I haven’t been so fired up since I returned from my trip to Burning Man in 2008. This is appropriate, as it was seeing the Neverwas Haul on the Playa that inspired my initial research on steampunk. Interviewing its crew, particularly Shannon O’Hare and Kimric Smythe, this weekend proved the perfect full-circle to my Vintage Tomorrows adventure. I’ve got another manuscript draft to turn around over the course of the next couple weeks, but now I have one heck of a capstone.
Sundry relevant observations & bits of information:
- Vintage Tomorrows (the book) is being published by O’Reilly (the folks behind Make Magazine), and will be available this fall (2012).
- Filmmaker Byrd McDonald and I gave a presentation on Vintage Tomorrows (the film) and the project more generally on Saturday evening. We had a few technical difficulties, but a helluva lot of fun… and that seems appropriately steampunk in its own way. You can watch the presentation on the Maker Faire website here.
- The Neverwas Haul is steampunk’s Furthur. What’s more, its crew may darn well have been responsible for a causing (or rather, failing to seal ) a temporal rift in 2005 that could darn well explain the huge surge in anachro-technological wackiness we’ve seen over the past 7 years. Just sayin’. 2005 was also the year Girl Genius started publishing online… coincidence?
- Punking is hacking with a tweak of the nose. Steampunking does this with raw material from the 19th century, but there’s no reason you can’t punk just about anything. Punk the past, punk your culture. Void the warranty on your textbooks. Just remember that just like an engine, history’s got sharp edges and running current—take care that you don’t hurt yourself or others when you start taking it apart. Also, build something better! Cracking the seals and taking things apart is only the first step, the second is creating something—enacting your imagination to make some small part of the world a better place. Check out my article in the coming issue of SteamPunk Magazine (#9) for more on the politics of punking the past.
- Steam is darn cool stuff in itself. Kinetic Steam Works does steam sans-punk, and man do those folks build & drive some incredible machines. Not a transistor or processor in ‘em, either. The digital age sure doesn’t preclude the mechanical. In some ways, the more digital our culture becomes, the more we need the mechanical—physical, tangible reminders that any of us can pick up a screwdriver or wrench and control our own technological future.
I’ll close with a thought about form and function. As our processors, circuits, and other components have become smaller, form has been freed from function. This facilitates the sleek simplicity of the iPhone, but it can facilitate so very much more. We can now fit almost any function into almost any form. I saw it last weekend in San Mateo, and I assure you that what I’ve seen is only the very tip of the iceberg. To paint the idea with a broad brush, we now live in a world in which the only limit is our own imagination. Your own imagination. Don’t settle. Make your own future.